MARY STACK'S BLOG

FROM: Mary StackPowerlifting

I have been lifting for 22 years, and feel I have been very lucky to be able to do the thing I love for this many years. I have had really good, exciting, and sometimes tough times, but I wouldn't change a single minute of it. The tough times have taught me patience and have helped me be the athlete I am today. Over those years I have managed to adjust things like school, work, family and what I do, based on lifting meets and training.

In the Paralympics, powerlifting is the bench press, but with your feet up and strapped down to the bench. It takes a lot of technique: the bar is lifted off the rack. Arms must be fully extended, and under control. You wait for a "start" command and then lower the bar to the chest. The bar may not sink in, the bar must stop on the chest, and the bar must be motionless. Then you drive off the chest without a bounce, and arms must fully extend at the top. You wait for the "rack" command, and then the lift is completed.

Each lifter gets 3 attempts. I typically start with a weight that I know I have easily, and then my second lift is usually about 5-7 kilos more, and my third attempt is something I have never done before, something that will be a challenge but within limits of what I have trained for.

In powerlifting, unlike other Paralympic sports where there are specific classifications, all disabilities compete together. Athletes compete in one of the 10 weight classes. There are 10 weight classes for men and 10 weight classes for women.

I have been lifting for 22 years, and feel I have been very lucky to be able to do the thing I love for this many years. I have had really good, exciting, and sometimes tough times, but I wouldn't change a single minute of it. The tough times have taught me patience and have helped me be the athlete I am today. Over those years I have managed to adjust things like school, work, family and what I do, based on lifting meets and training.

But I have had times, during those years, where I wondered how I would be able to train. Lifting for me, even though it is an individual sport, is not something I can do on my own. I have always needed one-on-one assistance in the gym for getting a lift off, reaching things and pulling them down, helping sit up, or a wide range of other things.

When I first started getting serious with training, I had a coach with me for every training session. Then, when I started working and was away from that coach, I had to find a way to train. I lined up student volunteers from the local university, but this sometimes worked and sometimes was more of a headache than it was worth. As I got stronger, it seemed volunteers got weaker and weren't able to lift off for me, or they weren't available when I needed them. I would set my work schedule each semester based on when I could get help to train. Currently I don't have as much of a struggle with this, thank goodness! I am in a good situation now where I can get help and train. I am thankful for this while lasts.

Sydney, Australia, the 2000 Paralympic Games, was the first time women could compete in weightlifting or powerlifting. I am very proud that I was able to represent the USA that year. The sport has grown for women around the world so much since 2000. To be able to see that growth from the first Games to now is amazing.

I am looking forward to my fourth Paralympic games -- ready to bring home a Paralympic medal!

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